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Israel approves 380 new East Jerusalem settler homes

Dec. 24, 2014 4:17 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 26, 2014 4:58 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli authorities gave final approval on Wednesday to the construction of 380 new settler homes in two areas of occupied East Jerusalem, a local official said.

"The municipal commission has given construction permits for 307 homes in Ramot and 73 in Har Homa," Yosef Pepe Alalu, a Jerusalem city councillor with the opposition Meretz party, told AFP.

He said local officials were taking advantage of attention focusing on Israeli elections due in March to expand settlements.

"This kind of decision distances us from any chance of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians," he said.

Despite repeated warnings from Washington that it is fueling tensions, Israel has approved a series of plans for new settler homes in east Jerusalem in recent months.

Israel seized East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.

It refers to the entire city as its "united, undivided capital," and does not view construction there as settlement activity.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have moved into settlements in East Jerusalem that have been strategically built by Israel in and between Palestinian neighborhoods.

The Palestinians want the city's eastern sector as capital of their promised state and vehemently oppose any Israeli attempt to expand construction there.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have boiled over in recent months with frequent clashes between security forces and stone-throwing protesters, and a series of deadly "lone wolf" attacks on Israeli civilians.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman insisted last month that Israel would never consider the building of Jewish settlements in Jerusalem as "settlement activity."

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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